A ballroom dance known as a Waltz, places an accented beat on the first of every 3 counts.
” ONE 2 3, ONE 2 3, ONE 2 3, etc…”
The dancers tend to move more on these accented counts, using them as strong beats. The other two can sometimes be thought of as lesser steps or motions.
All 3 beats are felt, but only the first one drives the train.
Then there is Swing music, some of the most powerful, dance-inspiring music on the planet.
I’m not talking about Glen Miller’s, “In the Mood”, although that was a swing classic. But the Big Bands that could really swing hard and drive the dancers crazy, such as Count Basie, Lionel Hampton and others.
The drummer and bassist lock in on the downbeats, creating a “walking” effect that is uniquely jazz.
The rhythms of jazz are syncopated and varied, but at its core is the hard-working quarter note. Some refer to this effect as a zoom – zoom feeling, the drummers’ cymbal and the bass locked-in as one sound.
Disco, on the other hand, has strong down-beats AND upbeats on every beat. Watch the John Travolta classic, “Saturday Night Fever” to hear many popular disco songs that helped propel that music into a national craze.
The drummer pounds his bass drum on every beat. It’s called, “four on the floor”. In addition to that, he sizzles his high hat cymbals on every upbeat… producing a breathing effect that gives the music a hypnotic groove.
Musicians hated this music, saying it was brainless and simple-minded. But it served its purpose… to make people hit the dance floor.
The important thing to notice is that the quarter note is at the core of these three musical styles, as well as many other styles.
So if it’s beginning music in elementary school, or any popular music genre of today, this is your starting place for understanding different musical feels. All rhythm is a splitting or subdivision of the basic beat and/or it’s up-beat.
To sum this up, no matter how complex the music may seem, if you understand how note values relate back to the quarter note… counting and playing your song is much easier.
Yes, Frank Zappa and Bela Fleck may use 5’s, 7’s and other odd rhythms in their compositions. But for most mainstream, commercial music…the quarter notes will be divided into 2 equal parts, 3 equal parts, or 4.
There are always exceptions, (as the theory teachers are screaming.) But understanding rhythm is not difficult, if you begin with the basics. It is then much easier to learn and build from there.